Friday, December 30, 2011

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Part 4



I can't believe that 2011 is almost over. This will be my last post for the year! I have blogged way more this year than ever before. I've enjoyed sharing my weight loss and healthy living journey with you along with tidbits from my life and my opinion on things. My hope is that you've gotten as much out of reading my blog as I have out of writing it. Blogging has been a great accountability on this journey. I look forward to what 2012 will bring, meeting new goals, and learning new things. I hope that you'll continue to join me through it all. Always feel free to share my blog with others, especially those you know who are facing the same battles I am. Comments, encouragement, tips, etc are welcome too!

I had hoped to have another guest post for the final entry in the Eating Healthy on a Budget series. Alas, I had no takers. I hope you enjoyed the posts from Misti and Amy though. I'm looking forward to more series and guest postings next year!

I've wondered what other tips I could offer to you that hasn't already been said. I've gone back and re-read the past three posts and the tips given there. I hoped that by doing that I would recall some tip that hadn't been mentioned...and I did! Lucky for you! :)

Below you'll find some information on organizations that are there to help you when times are tough. There is no reason to be ashamed if you need a little extra help. We do. We are a family of three that lives on one income. God has always seen us through and we haven't gone hungry yet. We have used some of the organizations listed below and we are currently using number one. 

Organizations that can help you Eat Healthy on a Budget:

1. WIC - stands for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC is administered in each state by the local State Health Departments. Eligibility is determined by household size, income, nutrition risk, etc. I love this program because they aren't just providing you with free food, it's good, healthy food for you and your family. Of course you must be pregnant or have a child of eligibility age. We used WIC after Abigail was born. I still don't know how we would have survived if we'd had to pay for all those cans of formula a month. And before you go saying, breastfeeding is cheaper, I tried. My body barely produced any milk. We found ourselves earlier this year, once again, in need of WIC's services. They provide the basics...milk, eggs, bread, cheese, juice, cereal, and even fresh fruits and vegetables. Which in turn makes it easier for us to provide the other necessities and still get healthy, cost efficient meals on the table. You can find the WIC basics here

2. Angel Food Ministries - I Googled for a while this afternoon searching for a website for this organization. A friend of mine recently purchased from them a month or so ago, so I know they are still around. If any of you have any information on a website or how to get in touch with them please let me know. We've used Angel Food Ministries before. This organization sales you a bulk of groceries for a small price, usually around $25-$40 depending on what size box you order. The boxes come filled with meats, vegetables, and often desserts (I think. It's been a while since we've purchased a box. Feel free to leave a comment if your information is better than mine!) I believe that you have a choice in the types of meat that you want. For the most part, the items contained in the boxes are healthy and nutritious. The pick up place for these boxes is usually a local church.


3. Your local food bank. Most cities have some sort of food bank where you can go and get assistance if you need it. The church we attend is a distribution center for Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana

I'm sure there are other great organizations out there that can help you in a time of need. Budgeting your money is a helpful thing to do whether you need extra assistance or not. If you don't need to employ any of the above services, consider giving to your local food bank. Your surplus will help someone in need. Someone out there can enjoy a healthy meal because of your willingness to give.

Jessica's Spaghetti Sauce


1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
1 bag of frozen seasoning blend (frozen onion, bell peppers, and celery)
2 cans of petite diced tomatoes
8 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper (this makes it pretty spicy so adjust according to your taste)
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbs chili powder

Brown meat. About halfway through add in frozen seasoning blend. Once meat is cooked thoroughly, drain. Return meat to a stockpot and combine all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. Serve over whole wheat pasta.

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Part 3



Sorry to keep you waiting but fear not, the wait is over! Today, you get to finally read part three of my Eating Healthy on a Budget series. But, before we get down to it, let me say, I am super excited about this post! The guest poster today is my cousin Amy. I am always inspired by her posts on Facebook about her workout routines and marathon training. Amy has always been slender, athletic, and beautiful but being fit and healthy is a passion of hers and it definitely rubs off even if you live thousands of miles apart and haven't seen one another in years! So, thank you Amy for contributing today and inspiring me!

A little about Amy...


My name is Amy Goenner (cousin to Jessica). I am a mother to a soon-to-be 3 year old little boy, an Army wife to a soldier who is NEVER home, and a former teacher turned full-time nursing student.  To say that I am busy is an understatement.  Between being a single parent 8-10 months out of the year and a student, I am also a work-out-aholic and marathoner. Balancing those 2 things is never easy. However, being healthy is not a fad or a short-term commitment for me. It’s a lifestyle. It cannot be found in a pill or a temporary diet, it is something that you live every day; it’s becomes a part of you and without it, you feel lost (or at least moody—that’s what my husband says).


I have been lucky in the sense that I have never had to truly battle with my weight. I was an athlete through high school and good genetics and a sparse workout routine had gotten me by until after having my son. Though I was back to my pre-baby weight within 2 months of giving birth, nothing looked the same and clothes didn’t fit. Soon after we moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado… the running Mecca of the world… I got serious about my working out and running. Here, I dropped 15 lbs and 9% body fat. I went down 2 pant sizes and have never looked back.


I know that this post is about eating healthy on a budget, but I want to give some weight loss/workout advice as well.

Amy's Weight Loss and Workout Tips:

1). EVERYONE needs to do some weight training. Have you become stagnant in your weight loss? You are probably missing strength training. Adding weights to my cardio routine is what changed my body after having my son. Though I was working out 5 days a week (all cardio), I wasn’t seeing results. After adding weights, I dropped 10 lbs in 2 months. If you don’t have a gym membership there are things you can do at home (see below). If you do have a membership, ask for help from the staff! They can point you in the right direction.

At home workout (you can do this after cardio or by itself if you are short on time)
10 pushups                                                                10 burpees
10 triceps dips (using a chair)                                10 squats
10 walking lunges on each leg                               20 crunches
Hold plank for 30 seconds                                     Hold low squat position for 1 minute
Repeat  ALL  4 times

2.) Work in a little workout whenever you can. While cooking dinner, do squats or lunges. When waking up in the morning do pushups. Before bed, do crunches. 

3.) When  you only have 30 minutes or less to workout, go strong and go hard. Do intervals on the treadmill , bike, or stair climber. Something you may not know, ALWAYS workout with your treadmill set at a 1% incline. The treadmill at 0% simulates running downhill.

Example of a 30 minute treadmill workout:
Warm up for 8-10 minutes
Sprint at a self perceived exertion of an 8-9 out of 10 (this will be different for everyone) for 1 minute
Walk or run for 1 minute at your warm-up pace
Repeat intervals 5-8 times
Cool down for 5 minutes

4.) Don’t set your goals at unreachable highs. For example, if you say you will go to the gym for 2 hours a day, 7 days per week – chances are you won’t make it. This sets you up to believe you are a failure and potentially give up altogether. Instead, make a goal to get there just three times a week for 30 minutes and then feel really, really good about yourself when you overachieve. As time goes by and it becomes a habit – add more time. Remember that we ALL have slip ups and bad days. When this happens, reboot and move on in a positive manner.

Amy's Tips For Eating Healthy on a Budget:

1). Only buy what you know you are going to use. For example, buying fresh produce such as broccoli and cauliflower is often cheaper than buying frozen. However, if you buy 5 heads of each and then 3 of them go bad before you used them then you might as well throw money down the drain. Plan your meals and stick to your list for that week.

2.) Buy meat in bulk and then divide it into family portions before freezing. Meat will make up the largest part of a grocery bill. Buying meat in bulk often saves you money because stores often have sales on these sizes. Before freezing them, divide the larger packs up into smaller sizes.

3.) Read the sales add for the week. We have 3 grocery stores in a 5 mile radius of our house.  If one store is having BOGO on chicken breasts and another is having BOGO on frozen veggies, I will go to both stores. Another reason why it is important to plan your meals… this way you know what to look for. 

Amy's HOBO Chicken Packet's (feeds four)

These are super easy and keep the chicken very moist. You can also cook fish this way.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast (or tenderloins or fish of choice)
1 head of broccoli (or 4 cups)- chopped into smaller florets.  Can use different veggie or more than one veggie.
4 tablespoons of fat-free or light ranch dressing
1 cup of cheddar cheese
Aluminum foil (4 large pieces)

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken on foil and spread 1 tablespoon of dressing over each chicken breast. Place 1 cup of broccoli over each piece of chicken.  Divide the cheese evenly and sprinkle over broccoli. Fold the foil and completely seal the pocket you just made. Leave plenty of room around and above the chicken. Cook for 30 minutes, or until done. Un-wrap and serve!

You can also putting rice or stuffing underneath each piece of chicken to make a whole meal. For stuffing, take one 6 oz box of stuffing mix, stir in 1 ¼ cup of water and divide evenly among the 4 foils. For rice, cook desired amount (leaving a little extra moisture) and divide among foils. Cook for 30 minutes, or until chicken is done.


Amy after completing the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon in November!

Amy and her twin sister Abby running the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon in November


I hope you enjoyed this post and learned as much as I did! FYI - I had no idea what a burpee was and had to email Amy to find out. She provided me with this link that gives a description of the exercise and an instructional video...enjoy!

Thanks again, Amy!

As always, feel free to leave your own comments, tips, and recipes below.

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: What's Your Secret? (Re-post)


Today we come to the last of the Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011. Be on the lookout tomorrow and the following day to the conclusion of my Eating Healthy on a Budget series. Due to other circumstances part three of the series didn't get posted last Friday, which is why there will be two posts back to back.


 Below you'll find my original post, "What's Your Secret?" The truth is, there is NO quick fix to getting healthy and losing weight. If you want to lose it and keep it off, the answer is plain and simple...but for those of you who haven't read this post, I won't spoil it by telling you the answer now. You'll just have to read below to find out! 



I recently posted a comparison picture on Facebook. The picture on the left was taken on the day after Thanksgiving last year. The picture on the right was taken on Thanksgiving day this year.


Since I posted the picture I've been asked several times, "What's your secret?"

As you can tell, I've lost a significant amount of weight since last year. Since the beginning of January I've lost around 45 pounds. I most recently met my first weight loss goal of thirty pounds down since May. It was in May that I really became serious about losing weight and started tracking my weight loss and inch loss. 30 inches lost to be exact.

So, what is my secret?

The short answer: hard work.

The long answer: hard work.

When I first started receiving the questions about my "secret," I laughed a little. I wondered if people really thought there was some big secret about weight loss. But the truth is, I used to be one of those people myself.  Before this year, I had no desire to work hard and to change my life. I wanted an immediate fix to my problem without having to change anything about my diet and lifestyle. I tried a LOT of diet gimmicks over the years. Some were actual proven and approved methods of weight loss and I actually did lose weight on most of the programs or pills I tried. The problem with programs and pills is that while they may offer some instant gratification in the weight loss area once you stop taking the pills or doing the program, the weight comes back. If what you are doing to lose weight isn't something that you can realistically do for the rest of your life...it really doesn't work.

To truly be successful, I had to make a lifestyle change and work incredible hard. I started small. One pitfall to losing weight is changing too much at once. I had tried that several times and always ended up overwhelmed and unhappy. At first, instead of eliminating things from my diet, I added fruits and vegetables to it. At most meals, I made sure to have fresh fruits and veggies at the table. It was usually a bowl of grapes and a bag of baby carrots. I LOVE potato chips and they have always been a big downfall for me but I noticed that I slowly began to eat more of the fruits and veggies than the chips. Now, I only buy one bag of chips a month. It can be whatever kind that I want and I eat them in moderation, not the whole bag in one sitting. I used to buy two to three bags a week.

Another rule that I have is to never make foods off limits unless I decide that I don't like them anymore. Which has happened since I've become healthier. In past experiences, I realized that as soon as I had made certain foods off limits, I only craved them that much more and when I eventually caved in and ate it, I couldn't stop eating it and before I knew it, I was off the wagon again. However, I do not make it a habit to eat high fat, sugar laden, foods very often. If I really want something then I eat it but before I do, I take into account my activity level and what I've already eaten during the day. I say no to "bad" foods that I don't absolutely love because really, why should I waste calories on something that I can live without? I also began to drink more water and tried to keep diet sodas to an occasional treat instead of drinking five to six a day.

I began to cut fast food out of my diet as much as possible. We started eating at home majority of the time instead of mostly eating out. I began to cook healthy but yummy meals that satisfied and sustained. I haven't done it in a while but I have shared several recipes on my blog in the past. Another downfall of dieting before this year was believing the lie that healthy food tastes bad. You don't have to eat a salad every day. There are ways to make your favorite meals healthy. I LOVE Mexican food and enjoy healthy versions of enchiladas, tacos, etc all the time.

When I had a handle on my eating, I started focusing on fitness and exercise. I completed The Couch to 5K Running plan several months ago. I started this plan in May when I really became focused on losing the weight. I ran a 5K at the end of the summer and since then I generally run a couple times a week. I haven't run much lately but I hit the gym several times a week and go for a long walk at least once a day sometimes twice.

I could share more about my journey but suffice it to say that the secret to losing weight, is changing your lifestyle and A LOT of hard work! It is hard work to make good choices every day. It is hard work to get out of your warm bed to go for a walk or to miss watching your favorite TV show because you need to get in a run for the day. It is hard work to sacrifice your free time to get in a work out. It is hard work to choose to eat something healthy when everyone around you isn't making good choices. It is hard work to prepare healthy meals for your family instead of just heating up a frozen pizza. But every time you work hard, sweat, and make good choices, you are changing your life. You are one step closer to the "you" you want to be. Trust me, I know.

I know just by glancing at the picture above that I "look" better but what you can't see in that picture is that I "feel" better. My body is healthier. I have more energy. Fitting into a smaller size and liking the way I look is a bonus to living a healthier lifestyle.

The secret is out!

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say (Re-post)


Words can be used for destruction or words can be used for building someone up. Words, once they are said cannot not be taken back. They can be apologized for and forgiven but you can't unsay them. So, be careful little mouth what you say...



When I was growing up, my mouth always got me in trouble. Whenever I was "grounded" it was often because of something I had said rather than something I had done. My mom used to always  tell me to think before I spoke but for some reason, my mouth was faster than my brain. I usually had some quick-witted, sarcastic comment on the tip of my tongue before my brain ever had a chance to compute what my mouth was saying. Apparently, this character flaw started at a very young age. I distinctly remember being in Allied's Department Store (whatever happened to Allied's?) in Claxton with my mom and Grandma. I tend to have an opinion about most things and I apparently had one about the shoes my mom was making me try on. I don't remember what I said, but I back-talked to my mom in the shoe department and my Grandma reached over and popped me right in the mouth, in front of everyone. I was instantly angry and embarrassed and not really very repentant but I apologized because, really, who wants to be popped in the mouth a second time? That memory has stuck with me and I often recall it when my mouth has been on the loose again.

Over the years, I've gained some control over my tongue and I've allowed my brain to catch up with my mouth. Notice, I said "some" control. There are still times when I unleash a verbal onslaught on some poor, unsuspecting person. It's usually my husband. Sorry, honey! My poor judgement in words often comes when I'm upset, angry, tired, or not feeling well. Something about emotional situations causes me to forget my brain again and let my mouth take control.

On top of all of this, my humor is often very sarcastic and sometimes mean. In my family, sarcasm and mocking are a common thing, especially at family gatherings. Most things aren't off limits either. I have been mocked mercilessly about something I wore, things I've said, ex-boyfriends, things I've done, etc. If we love you, you are fair game. Ryan had a hard time adjusting to this family dynamic because it wasn't something he was used to. In my family, it's when you're not being picked on that you should be worried.

In today's society there are multiple ways to communicate. So now, my brain has to not only be worried about what my mouth might say in a person-to-person conversation but about email, text messaging, social media, etc. All of these outlets provides opportunities to slip up, to say something potentially hurtful whether it's meant to be funny or not. Majority of people online today seem to use social media to air their "dirty laundry," to complain about someone or something, and to cause drama. I won't lie. There have been times when I've been tempted to do those same things. It's like there is this false sense of security with social media that makes you think you can say whatever you want without any real consequences. But the truth is, no matter where or how you say it, words are powerful. Whether or not they are meant in jesting or in a mean spirited way, words can be hurtful. Words can either build someone up or tear them down.

On Facebook today, I read a status update that made me sigh inwardly. This person has no clue that I've been struggling with this but I felt like she was talking to me. Her status said, "Be careful with your words. Once they're said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten!" You see, social media got the best of me recently. What started out as an innocent, funny, "game" ended up with me taking it too far. What I only meant as a joke wasn't really perceived that way. Some of the comments I made were off the wall silly things but a few of them were about the person directly. Now, please understand that I hold no ill-will against this person whatsoever. I consider this person to be a friend. However, they may not know me well enough to understand my sense of humor. Most people think I'm a quite, reserved person but I'm really not. You just have to get to know me and for me to feel really comfortable around you before that side opens up. Again, social media opens up a whole new realm of false security that makes you think people really know you, when in most likelihood, they probably don't. So, I said a couple of things about the person that I thought they would "get" in this "game." The two things that I'm sure were the most offensive were only said because of two previous occasions when similar remarks were made, one by the actual person, and the other by me. Regardless, I should have allowed my brain to catch up with my mouth, or fingers in this case, to evaluate how what was being said would be taken or could be perceived.

Often, when my mouth gets away from me in my anger, it takes a while for me to feel remorseful about what I've said. I have to allow myself time to cool off and look at the situation with a clear head. But in a situation like this, where no harm was intended and I truly respect the person involved, remorse came instantly when I realized that the person may have been offended. It sat like a rock in my stomach while I went back and forth in my mind wondering how I had let my mouth get away from me again. I mean, I'm 28 years old for crying out loud, why is this still happening to me? I sent off a quick message to the person who said they were fine but even then I didn't feel right. I couldn't even go to sleep last night until I sent the person an apology. The truth is, I still don't feel good. I feel bad. I feel embarrassed. I feel like I did years ago when my Grandma popped me in my mouth in front of a store full of people. The only difference is, this time I am truly repentant.

The problem with words is that once they are said, you can't take them back no matter how bad you want to, whether you meant what you said or not. In this case, I didn't. As I was lying in bed last night, a couple of Bible verses kept coming to mind. One of them, I could only remember the last part and when I looked it up this morning, the verse was actually talking about deceiving a person but that last part still stuck with me, "Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I am only joking!" Proverbs 26:18-19. Even if you are joking, it doesn't make the words you say less hurtful. The other verse is Proverbs 18:21, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."

I really hope that this is a lesson that I don't have to learn again, anytime soon. Words can be used for destruction or words can be used for building someone up. How will you use your words today?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: To Go or Not To Go??? (Re-post)


A humorous look at my Sunday morning dilemma...



My parent's were pretty strict when it came to how you behaved in church. You did not talk, sleep, or pass notes and you most definitely did not get up and leave church...even to pee! Going to the bathroom was something done before church started. I was only allowed to go to the bathroom if it was an emergency, otherwise, I was told to hold it, and received a stern look for having even asked the question in the first place. Because, see, just by asking the question, I had broken two rules. One, I was talking in church and two, I obviously didn't go to the bathroom before church started. My parent's didn't like the distraction of people constantly getting up and leaving church and coming back.

So, you can imagine my delimma this morning when the pastor finally made it to the pulpit and started preaching. Read closely...I HAD TO PEE!!! And, I had to pee BAD! What was I going to do? A battle raged in my mind. Do I get up and go to the bathroom or do I sit here and hold it and pray that I don't have to sneeze later? After a few minutes of debating, which had me totally distracted from the sermon, I came to a conclusion. I am an adult! I can go to the bathroom if I want to! Nobody is going to reprimand me!

Still, I looked around to make sure my parent's weren't in sight, obviously they weren't,  and I got up and went to the bathroom as quietly and as obscurely as I could. I couldn't help but smile a little when I sat back down in my seat a few minutes later. The whole inner episode was quite comical. It goes to show that my parent's raised me well, considering that I was still abiding by a rule that was made years ago.

The question now is, why did I have to pee so bad? Well, if you read my post a few days ago about setting goals, you'll know that one of mine was to drink more water. I had already drunk a 16.9 oz bottle of water on the way to church and before Sunday school started, I filled a cup up with water from the fountain and drank that. AND...I went to the bathroom immediately after Sunday school was over!

I had already realized that drinking more water, made me have to go to the bathroom more but I hadn't thought about how that would affect me on Sunday mornings. Hopefully, my parent's won't read this and be upset that I left church and went to the bathroom. :) But trust me, it was less of a distraction by me going than it would have been if I hadn't and then had to sneeze later! Ha! And, I was able to fully concentrate on the sermon afterwards!

Hopefully, my body will get used to drinking more water soon and I'll be able to do a better job of "holding it" during church. Because even though I went, I secretly felt a little guilty for going! :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: Lessons I've Learned From The Cosby Show (Re-post)


Find out the important lessons I learned from watching my favorite TV family...The Cosby's.






The Cosby Show debuted on September 20, 1984. I was just a few months over a year old. The series concluded on my 9th birthday, April 30, 1992. So, for as far back as I can remember, "the Cosby's" have been a part of  my life. I remember watching episodes of the TV show at my grandparent's house when I was little. Of course, then, I didn't always understand the humor or get the innuendo's. I don't think there has been a year since the show began when you couldn't find an episode of The Cosby's on some network. If I'm flipping through channels and I find that the show is on, I'll stop and watch it. In my almost 28 years, I'm sure that I've seen every episode more than once. Recently Netflix made the entire series available instantly. While I have seen every episode, I don't believe that I've ever seen them consecutively in the order they aired on TV. So, I've started watching the series episode by episode starting at season one. I'm currently on season four. The show never gets old. Even the episodes that I've seen over and over again are still funny and still relevant. I've always said that my dad reminded me of Bill Cosby. Their sense of humor and their dispensing of "wisdom" are very similar. There are many episodes in which the antics of Dr. Huxtable in relating to his children remind me of my own childhood and things my dad would say or do. So in honor of my childhood, here are the lessons I've learned from watching The Cosby Show:

1. Laughter is good for us.

Of course there are times for tears and pain, sadness and reproof but sometimes you've just gotta laugh. The Cosby's often remind me not to sweat the small stuff. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh and go on about your business. Even the Bible tells us that laughter is good for us, "A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22. I can't tell you how many times in my life that my real life version of Cliff Huxtable, my dad, made me laugh in spite of whatever I was going through. I may not have appreciated it at the time (I'm usually the type of person who wants to stay mad when I'm mad so I didn't always appreciate him making me laugh when I was upset or angry) but I was thankful for it later. The Cosby's also taught me that it's OK for parent's to laugh at their children. We live in a culture where we are so worried about self-esteem. The problem is most of us think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. Now, I don't mean that parents should humiliate their children or degrade them. But the truth is sometimes as kids we just did (and still do) stupid things! My parent's laughed at me more times than I can count and I turned out OK!

2. Tough love is true love.

As a parent now, I can really relate to this statement. Sometimes the best thing for a kid is for the parent to say no. I get so tired of seeing parents who don't discipline their children but allow them to run wild and say whatever they wish. They have no respect for authority. Somewhere along the way, we've gotten our roles reversed. Instead of parent's leading the household we have children making decisions and controlling the parents. Today's media doesn't help either. I can't even count how many TV shows that I've seen where children and teenagers are allowed to do as they please with no real consequences. Where is the tough love? Where is pointing your child in the right direction even though they might get upset or angry? I am thankful that The Cosby Show is still in reruns, while I don't always agree with their politics and beliefs, they had it right when it came to parenting. They taught their children the hard lessons and loved them unconditionally even when they messed up. My parent's did the same for me. I remember thinking at times that my parent's were so unfair. I couldn't understand why all the other parent's allowed their children to do things that I wasn't allowed to do. But looking back, I am so thankful. And as a parent, I can now understand and relate. As I've said in a previous post, there is a time to show mercy and a time for discipline.

3. Education is important.

One of my most favorite episodes is one of the earliest one's (if not the first, I can't remember). Theo has decided that he doesn't want to go to college when he is older. He wants to be a regular person. He can't understand why his parents expect so much out of him. Cliff sits him down and asks him how much he plans on making as a regular person then proceeds to give him monopoly money to represent what he would make in a month, less taxes (Theo didn't know about that). He then proceeds to take away money for food, rent, transportation, and even a girlfriend. Theo is left with practically nothing at the end of the segment. I don't think The Cosby Show was trying to say that there is anything wrong with being a "regular" person as Theo called it but the chances for a more successful life went up if you had higher education. Now, I realize that this is not always true in our world today. There are just as many college graduates who can't get a job and many of them will be in debt for the rest of their lives due to student loans (I may be one of those) but education at any level is important. Cosby himself is a prolific supporter of education in real life. As a parent of a three year old, I am always encouraging her learning. I know I'm biased but I think she's really smart for her age! And my parents always pushed me in my education. They didn't allow for laziness. I was a pretty smart kid so I didn't have to always try so hard but the weren't happy with what I could do without trying, instead, they were interested in what I could do when I did try. I wasn't always thankful for this but in the long run, it paid off.


4. Who says you can't go home again.

Dr. Huxtable was always making cracks about his children leaving home and coming back and leaving home and coming back. He longed for the day where his children would leave the nest for good! But he and Claire were always there for their children. No matter where life had taken them, or what decisions they had made, they were there and often with lesson number two, tough love. I am thankful to have parents just like that. No matter how old I get or where life takes me, they are there. I love being able to pick up the phone and ask for advice and on occasion, help, when things haven't turned out the way I expected. I love being able to go home and spend time with them and eat their food and have mom wash my clothes! Family was always a priority on The Cosby Show.

The truth is, I didn't really learn all this from The Cosby Show. I learned these lessons from the two best parents in the world! They emulated each of these lessons in ways I'll never forget. They shaped me into the person I am today. It just so happens that my real life often parallelled the beloved Cosby Show. OBKB!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: April, Parenting, & Choices (Re-post)


Today starts the top five It's My Life posts of the Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011. "April, Parenting, and Choices" is really when I got back into the swing of blogging. Take a look at my thoughts on parenting and healthy living below...the difference between the photo of me in April and current photos is big! 

April snuck up on me pretty fast this year. The first three months of 2011 are already gone and in the past. I am positive that time did not go by this fast when I was a kid. Once Christmas was over, April couldn't get here fast enough. Why you ask? Well, my birthday is in April. It's the very last day in April, it might as well have been in May. But in my childhood, birthdays were just as important as Christmas. My parent's didn't always have a lot of money but my mom made sure our birthday's were special! We always got to invite all of our friends and play games and have cake and ice cream and of course, presents. My mom made memories for us. I can't thank her enough for that.

This year I'll be 28. It seems so surreal sometimes that now I am the mom and trying to be sure to create memories for my daughter. As a parent you have to be pretty selfless. And if we're being honest, it's not something that comes naturally to us. There are plenty of days where I don't want to go outside and play or I don't want to watch The Spy Next Door for the 101st time but I do it because I love my daughter. Every day that I am a parent, I am pushed out of my comfort zone. I am reminded that life isn't all about me and that it's hard. I am made more aware of my choices and the consequences of those choices every time those big brown eyes look up at me or I catch my daughter mimicking me in some way...good or bad.

One of the choices that we have made recently is to be more healthy. If you've read my blog in any capacity you will know that my weight and being healthy is something that I have struggled with for a long time. A couple of months ago, I was the biggest I have ever been in my whole life. I don't know how much I weighed because I was too scared to get on a scale and see the number. I had to take a look at my life and my eating habits and not only how it was negatively affecting me but my daughter as well. Chicken nuggets and french fries is not the road I wanted her to travel. So we made a decision. We started buying more fruits and vegetables and less junk and processed food. We cut out fast food and when we needed a quick meal we ordered grilled chicken instead of greasy hamburgers. We haven't been perfect in it but we've been better. We still have the occasional sweet treat but it's in moderation. Now when we go to the grocery store, she doesn't ask for candy or junk, she wants fruit and vegetables. Just today she practically wanted to buy every fresh fruit in the store. We eventually decided on fresh pineapple, grapes, and a mango. We've been trying to incorporate as much organic into our diet as well. It's definitely more expensive eating healthier but it's worth it. Eating this way has me really wanting to grow a garden. It's just not practical right now since the lease is up on the house we are renting and the landlord is trying to sell it. We aren't really sure where we'll be going from here but it's all in God's hands.

A great "consequence" to eating healthier is weight loss! I'm not sure how much I've lost total because as I said earlier, I didn't weigh myself before we made the choice to eat healthier. I just know that my clothes are fitting better and I feel better. I've recently incorporated exercise into my daily routine and since I've started exercising I've lost about 5 pounds. Go me!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: My First 5K: The Critter Run (Re-post)


At the end of my Couch to 5K training, I traveled to my parent's home in the panhandle of Florida where I met up with my mom and uncle and other family members. My mom and uncle decided to run with me in my first 5K. My family has supported me and cheered me on throughout as I've been on this journey. Read below to find out what my first 5K was like.

I awoke Saturday morning feeling excited and nervous. Saturday was race day! That evening I would be running my very first 5K. I had trained hard and well but I still couldn't shake the slight jitters I felt.

Lucky for me, I was surrounded by my amazing family. We did a little shopping in Graceville, ate lunch, laughed, talked, and just enjoyed being together. Finally, it was time to change into my running attire and get ready to head to Dothan, Alabama for the 26th annual Critter Run.

Like I said before my mom and my Uncle Rudy were running with me. So the three of us posed for some before pictures before we left.


The rest of the family left a little later since we needed to be there early to get our numbers and such. My stomach was a little tense as I drove us to Dothan.

I felt proud as we got our numbers. I mean, how many people out there can't say that they've ever run a 5K. I used to hear about races and think to myself that I wished I was the type of person who could do that. Now, I was. There was no wishing. I had trained hard for 9 weeks. I was still a bit apprehensive since I hadn't actually run 3 miles yet. The farthest was probably around 2.5 miles. But I was smiling as my mom pinned my number to my shirt.


Our "entourage" finally arrived just before the race started. Did I mention that the course was described as "rolling?" Meaning that it had a LOT of hills. I have NEVER run hills. It's pretty flat where I run in Slidell. So we got behind the starting line and waited to hear the whistle. And off we went. The plan had been for us to stay together but our paces were so different that we just decided to do it at our own paces. As soon as I started running I felt tears prick the corners of my eyes. I couldn't believe I was doing it and I was so thankful for the support of not only my mom and uncle but my whole family as well.


I didn't see my mom much again after this photo. I stayed not too far behind her for the first mile but after that I didn't see her again until near the finish line. I lost sight of my uncle from the get go! :) I ran the first mile in 11:14. Not to bad, huh? Making it to the second mile was tough because that's where those nasty hills came up. There was one time that my legs literally felt on fire and I REALLY wanted to stop. But I kept telling myself that my one goal was finishing without stopping. It didn't matter how long it took me. I also didn't want to finish last!

Just as I came to the second mile marker a lady was walking beside me and started up a conversation. Normally I wouldn't want to talk while I was running but this was just what I needed. She encouraged me and made me forget how bad my legs wanted me to stop. She eventually started back running and I didn't see her again. There was another lady that made me want to laugh. I guess I was her measuring stick on how well she was doing because she would run and walk. She was either behind me or in front of me most of the way. Near the end of the race she tried to stay in front of me. When she was walking, she'd let me get right up to her but before I could pass her, she started running again. In the end, I passed her and stayed in front of her the rest of the way. But I guess the Lord knew I needed a laugh while I was running.

After all of this I realized that I had to be near the end. But the end also meant a pretty long incline. My legs were burning and I was taking deliberate breaths and pushing out hard through my mouth. That's when I saw them...my mom and uncle. I can barely type this without tears. They came back to cheer me on the rest of the way. As soon as I saw them I started crying. I had to ignore it so I could finish but with my uncle beside me and my mom behind me, they cheered me on up that final, awful hill to the finish. I ran the race and I finished well...under an hour and definitely not the last person! My time was 41:45 (the seconds may be off but I know it was under 50 seconds. The race results should be posted online in a couple of days so I should know my exact time soon.) It took me a minute after it was over to feel "normal" again. I felt a bit shaky and I had to catch my breath after I ran hard up that final hill.


WE DID IT!!!!!!!!

Later the group went out for Mexican food. I wasn't all that hungry but I made myself eat a little to get some of my energy back. I felt so proud of all three of us. I felt like I had truly accomplished something. And I'm looking forward to my next race. Not sure when it will be but I at least hope to run the Jazz 5K in New Orleans in October. Maybe one day I'll be ready for a half marathon! Who knows?!


Here I am in the t-shirt from the Critter Run. The animal for this year was the Orangutan...interesting!


Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: Making Your Dreams a Reality (Re-post)


I am once again behind on my Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011 Re-posts. "Making Your Dreams a Reality" was supposed to be posted yesterday but I spent most of the day in our vehicle traveling back to Louisiana from Florida. In this re-post you'll find a little of my back story and my struggles with losing weight. You'll also discover what it takes to make your dreams come true.





At lunch yesterday Ryan and I were talking about what it takes to make our dreams/desires a reality. Most of us have a list of things that we'd like to do or accomplish. Some may be far fetched and unrealistic but others are doable if we just "do". The problem is that we have all these desires but we don't "do" anything to make them come true. Now, I'm not saying that we need to act on all our desires and dreams because let's face it, we're human and not all of our desires are God honoring and could be more harmful than helpful. But I'm sure that if you are like me, there are things that you really want out of life but they seem like some distant hope for the future. A sort of, "the stars have to align" in order for that to happen. But how many of those things could be accomplished if we just did something about it. This led me to thinking about losing weight.

If you are new to my blog let me give you a little background on myself. I never had a weight problem until I was in college. I always had a healthy appetite and love for food but I was fairly active in high school so it wasn't a problem. In college I became more sedentary and then two years later, I got married. Married life was like a free for all when it came to eating. My husband and I both shared a love for food and so we ate...A LOT! I began packing on the pounds. I like to say that I went to bed skinny one night and woke up fat the next morning. I know it didn't happen like this but that's how I felt. Anyway, after years of yo-yo dieting, I lost some weight with the help of a diet program that made me drink shakes and take pills. After I dropped a good bit of weight, I got pregnant with Abigail, which was an answer to prayer! But instead of keeping my eating habits the same, I let my pregnancy be an excuse to eat anything I wanted and I pretty much ate everything! Once I had Abigail, I dropped some weight pretty quickly but after dealing with postpartum depression and eventually losing my job just after Abigail's first birthday I turned again to food. Food was my comfort and my friend. My life became all about food. I was an addict. In 2010 we moved to Louisiana. For the first time in my life I was living in a town without any family, mine nor Ryan's and again food became my solace. I packed on even more pounds. I weighed the most I had ever weighed but refused to actually weigh myself. At the beginning of 2011, I realized that I couldn't keep living this way and that my negative food choices were affecting my daughter and I didn't want her to grow up with the same problems with food that I've always dealt with. So we started making better choices, adding fruits and veggies, cutting out most junk food, drinking more water, etc. I lost some weight initially and making better choices became easier but it wasn't until May of this year that I really got it together and started dropping some serious pounds.

How did I do it, you ask? Well, for a long time my desire to lose weight and be certain size was merely a desire, a dream. I could strain my eyes and my mind and look into the future and see the me I wanted to be. But for a long time, it was just that. I had no goals, no plan to get there. That is why I spent years trying this diet and these pills. That's why I joined gyms and started exercise programs. That's why none of those things really worked. Yes, I lost a few pounds here or there but the truth is, if they had REALLY worked, I wouldn't be typing this message to you now. I wouldn't have gained the weight back. If what you are doing now to lose weight isn't something that you can realistically see yourself doing for the rest of your life...IT DOESN'T WORK!!! So again, you ask, how are you doing it and why is it different this time? Well, I'll tell you...

I set some goals and I made a plan. And this time it just wasn't a thought of, "I want to lose 30 pounds. I want to get back into a size 8 jeans. I'm going to go on a diet. I'm going to exercise." While all those thoughts have good intentions behind them, you know that the road to failure is often paved with good intentions. This time, I really put a plan into motion...a specific plan. My goals were to get more sleep, drink more water, complete the C25K running plan, eat more fruits and veggies, etc. And I'm doing all those things. I am on my seventh week of the C25K. It's a nine week plan. I'm going to graduate soon and I've gone from someone who hates running to someone who enjoys it. I used to be someone who went to bed around midnight every night. Now, I'm in my bed around 8:00 p.m. I read for about an hour and then I go to sleep. I get up early three days a week to run and I go for a walk or to the gym on the other days. And I've changed the way I eat. Like I've said before, I used to equate eating better with eating things I did not enjoy which always led to falling off the wagon and a trip to McDonald's. This time, I found ways to eat the things I love but in a healthier way. I'm not saying that I always get it right and I know that some days I eat too many calories but when I make a mistake, instead of saying, "oh well, I've already messed up, I might as well eat something unhealthy," I re-evaluate and start over. But the key to my success so far is making a plan and sticking to it. And when you find out your plan is no longer working as well for you as you like, change it up, take stock of where you are, and make the changes necessary to meet your goal. It really is as simple as that.

It applies to all areas of your life. Whatever your dream or desire might be. I have another dream that has been tormenting me and mocking me for years. I love to read and because of that I developed a love for writing. I always enjoyed writing papers in high school and college and through that love a desire grew...to write a book, a novel. But in the same way that I approached weight loss in the past, I approached writing a book. I started out with no real plan so on my computer is an unfinished novel that I started over five years ago. I have this great desire to finish it and write other novels. Truth be told, I have like four novels that I've started. But none of them are finished. I had no follow through. I would get overwhelmed with it and give up. Just like losing weight was something that I REALLY wanted and could squint into my future and see, it's the same with my book. I know I have it in me. I can look really hard into the future and see myself as a published author but how am I ever going to get there? It's going to take the same goal setting, plan making, and discipline that it has required of me to actually change my life and my weight.

I can see myself living this healthier lifestyle for the rest of my life. I enjoy it. I'm not having to swallow magic pills, drink disgusting shakes, go to meetings, or any other stuff that I wouldn't want to do forever. My life and my body is changing because I'm using it as it was designed to be use. I'm putting in healthy fuel, giving it the exercise it needs and deserves, treating it like the temple it is and that is why I feel better and look better. And today was my weigh in day. I'm down three more pounds for a total of  12 pounds down since around the middle of May.

So, whatever your dream or desire, if it honors God, go for it! Don't just sit there wishing for something to happen because more often than not, you'll still be sitting there in the years to come. Sometimes, you just have to make things happen for yourself. Don't just say your going to do it, make a plan, set some goals, and go for it. And find someone or some people, to keep you accountable. For me, it's my husband, my family, and my Facebook and blogger friends.

I've already been making my plan to finish my novel. I don't have all the steps down yet but I'm working on it. Maybe one day in the near future you'll be in your favorite bookstore and look over and see my name on the cover of a book on the shelf. And if you do, I hope you'll pick it up and buy it. And when you look on the back for the picture of the author, you'll see a slimmer more confident me!

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: I've Got Goals (Re-post)

In whatever it is that you want to achieve, setting goals is important. It is especially so with weight loss. Having small goals along the way are imperative to reaching your bigger goals. Below, you'll find my original post, "I've Got Goals." These goals have helped me get to where I am today. I continue to have to re-evaluate and make new goals the further along I get on my journey.

Something that I've learned over the past few days is that it's important to set goals. I know. I probably should have figured this out a long time ago. I guess I'm slow! :) I've never been one to set goals...properly. I'm pretty good at setting unrealistic, unattainable, unspecific goals. Most of them were long-term goals without short-term ones to help me reach them.

As I continue on my journey to be healthier and shed some pounds, I really need goals, short-term and long-term. These goals will give me something to work toward instead of just a distant goal weight in the future. Still not sure what that is yet. Some of my goals will be tailored to do just that, help me reach a goal weight. Others will be to help me continue on in my healthy lifestyle. Others won't pertain to this journey in particular, but other areas of my life.

So, I've been mulling over what it is that I want to accomplish in all areas of my life. I'm not done. And I'm sure I won't ever be. Things in our lives are constantly changing and evolving. We have to adapt.

It's important to not just set goals but to also give yourself a realistic time limit in which to reach that goal. And if you don't meet the goal at the appointed time, don't give up, don't be discouraged. Re-evaluate. Figure out why it didn't happen. What changes should you make?

It's the same way with cooking and recipes. Sometimes, you can follow a recipe exactly but not get the same result as someone else did. Or, your tastes may be different, just like our bodies and lives are different, so you tweak or adjust the recipe to your liking, to make it work for you. As you get more comfortable with cooking and learn new techniques, expand your palate, get more creative and adventurous, what you're able to accomplish in the kitchen grows. You're repertoire of dishes grows. You're food tastes better. You become more confident. You are more willing to try new things. The same is true with goal setting. Once you get comfortable with setting goals and doing whatever it takes to reach that goal, the more you can work on yourself. And if you've ever tried to lose weight in any capacity, you know that you can't do it the same way all the time, because eventually you'll plateau, get discouraged, and head in the opposite direction. So, you have to change it up. Be flexible. Instead of being discouraged, take it as a challenge. And if you're like me, you like a good challenge. I'm very competitive!

So now that I've waxed philosophical about goals and doing whatever it takes, I sound like I have it figured out...I DON'T! I've just begun to set goals for myself. But for the first time, I feel like I understand better what it's going to take to be healthier and lose weight. In the past, I've struggled with the instant gratification problem. If I didn't see results immediately, it wasn't working, so why give up fast food, chicken fingers, and chimichangas. But just because you can't see something changing immediately, doesn't mean it isn't changing. I had to get my head around my problem and what was going on in my life that caused me to gain all the weight, to be complacent, defeated. In short (maybe a longer post later), I'm a food ADDICT! I didn't figure this out until recently. I don't just love food, I'm addicted to it. I crave it. If I kept an account of everywhere I spent my money over the last year, you would find that most of it was for food. Five dollars in my pocket meant I could have a double cheeseburger, large fry, and diet coke from McDonald's. More about this later...back to the original post...GOALS.

Here are a few of my immediate goals to begin working towards:

1. Drink more water, at least 64 oz a day.
2. Exercise 3-5 times a week.
3. Complete C25K training in the next 8 weeks (week 1 will be finished tomorrow. It's a 9 week program).
4. Go to bed earlier and get more sleep.
5. Eat more fruits and veggies.

These are my top five for now. I've heard it takes 28 days to create a habit. So, that's my time frame for all but the C25K since it already has it's own time frame.

I joined SparkPeople yesterday. I learned about it from Clara's blog. It's a free weight loss website that allows you to track your goals, nutrition, fitness, etc. You can also connect with others who are on the same journey as you, get recipes, and tips, and so forth. You can either put in a weight you want to be or a specific date and it calculates what date is realistic to reach your goal or what weight is realistic to reach by the specific date. I chose the date and let them choose the weight. So my first long-term goal is:

To lose 30 pounds by September 01, 2011. That will make a total of 40 pounds since March.

No matter what sort of journey you are on, set some goals, give yourself a time frame in which to reach the goal, make a plan, and get started!

~Jessica

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: Sunday Morning and Black Pants (Re-post)

Below you'll find the second entry in my Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011. "Sunday Morning and Black Pants" is a transparent look at my struggle with my weight and my journey to become healthier. I am happy to say that I can no longer wear the pants discussed in this post.



A few months ago, I stood, staring, at my closet. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes. Sunday's were supposed to be a day of rejoicing and a desire to meet with God's people and worship Him but here I was almost in tears wishing I could just crawl back in bed and stay in the over sized t-shirt and cotton, elastic waistband shorts that I was wearing. Getting dressed was emotionally exhausting and I had only myself to blame for the mess that I was in. With an exasperated sigh, I reached into the drawers in my closet and pulled out a pair of knee length, black, dress pants. I had no idea if they would fit or not. I got them on and buttoned them up, barely. Muffin top is not the word I would use to describe the fat spilling out over the top of these pants, it was much more than that. I don't recall what shirt I wore but I remember having to find something billowy that didn't cling to the mass above the top of my pants and long enough to cover how tight these pants were across my bum. Off to church we went and all the while praying that I wouldn't be noticed by many people. I tried to shut off the thoughts I was having about myself and concentrate on the sermon. All in all, I felt disgusting and disgusted with myself.

Flash back nearly 10 years ago and I was a slim, teen aged girl, and a pageant queen. I had no problem with my self-esteem and I felt great about myself. I wondered how I had gone from that person to the person I was now. On the inside, I still felt like that teen aged girl but the mirror told a different story. I remember being back in my hometown for a visit. I had gone out to eat in the neighboring town with some friends of mine and we ran into a former classmate whom I hadn't seen since graduation. After a brief chat, he congratulated me on my pregnancy! Abigail was around a year old at this time. I laughed it off and said, "no, I'm not pregnant, just fat." I had a smile on my face but on the inside I was dying of embarrassment. Not even that moment was enough for me to get behind my problem and make the changes necessary to fix it.

I can't say that the Sunday in front of my closet and getting ready for church that morning was my defining moment either but it was around that time that I decided I'd had enough. As the months have progressed those black pants have been a measuring stick so to speak on how well I've been doing. I've worn them off and on in the months since then and each time they've fit a little better but they've still been tight. It's been about a month since I've last worn them and today I decided that it was time to pull them out again. As I pulled them on and zipped them up, I sort of hesitated to button them. Would they still feel tight or would they reflect how well I've been doing and all the hard work that I've put in recently? I'm sure you've all heard the expression, "fit like a glove" and they did. They fit perfectly! They actually fit better than they did several years ago when I bought them. I added a button up shirt  that I had bought in April and it fit better too.

For the first time in a long time, I actually felt really great about how I looked on the way to church this morning. My mind wasn't wondering about how people perceived me. Plus, I had run my first day of week 5 of C25K earlier and I was feeling good about running for five minutes, three times!

I do want to clarify that for me, this journey isn't all about how I look and what size clothing I end up wearing. It truly is about being healthier and doing what's best for my body and my family. Looking better and wearing smaller sizes is just part of the reward for living this healthier lifestyle.

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011: C25K: Week 1 (Re-post)

I was supposed to start my Top Ten Blog Post of 2011 yesterday. I, however, forgot. So, today you'll be getting two. I'm starting with the top five healthy living post. Below is my original post about finishing Week One of The Couch To 5K running plan. The C25K played a huge role early on in my quest for healthier living and losing weight. If your looking for a running or exercise plan, I suggest starting with this plan. It's easy to follow and very doable. I never liked running before and this plan took me from being a non-runner to being able to run a 5K. I am hopefully going to be running a 10 come spring! I hope you enjoy reliving 2011 with me...



I did it! I officially completed week one of the Couch to 5K plan!!!
To be honest, I had my doubts. Most of you already know that I tried the plan before and thought I was going to die after day one and gave up. And, I have a pretty convincing track record of saying I'm going to do something and not following through. Not the best character trait to have, but hey, I'm being honest here. So, Sunday rolled around, the day I had planned to start and all I could think about was if I would actually do it. I had my qualms and I had some excuses lined up but I knew it was time to quit making excuses and go for it. I was only hurting myself by not following through.

I took Abigail to the park for an hour on Sunday afternoon and when we got back home, I changed clothes before I could change my mind. I only have a cheap umbrella stroller, not ideal, but it's all I had to work with and since I wasn't making excuses, I buckled Abigail in, put in my headphones, found the C25K podcast on my iPod, and headed out the door. After the five minute warm-up walk, came the first run...and it wasn't too bad. It definitely got harder as each run came up and as I fought with the umbrella stroller but before I knew it, the last run was over and it was cool down time. I had made it! I finished day one! Once we got back inside, I took stock of how I felt. Even though I was a bit winded, I didn't feel anything like I had felt that first time. I actually felt pretty good which then led to feeling great because I was so proud of myself.

I couldn't wait for Tuesday and my next run but I knew I couldn't do it again with that umbrella stroller. Well, really, I would have if I had to, but my wonderful husband agreed to watch Abigail and the baby I sit for and I headed out about 10 AM that morning. It was the perfect day for a run. The weather was cooler and the humidity was way down. It was so much easier and when I was done, I didn't feel pretty good. I didn't even feel great. I felt exhilarated, empowered, and energetic!

On Tuesday night, I went to Walmart for some groceries and decided to splurge on a few things for myself...a sports bra, some athletic socks (I had been wearing two pair of Ryan's socks), and a cute running outfit. I was so happy that the tank top had a media pocket. I really want to invest in an armband for my iPod but these tank tops are great! I was READY to run on Thursday.



Who am I? I HATE to run! At least that is what I thought. I'm sure some weeks will be tougher than others but I am determined not to give up! I WILL graduate from this program.

Well, I'm on central time and for me, it's still Thursday. So today, my husband watched the kids again and I went out and did day three. My legs were a tiny bit sore and it was warmer out today and the humidity was back up. It was a bit tougher than day two but not as bad as day one. I finished and I finished well. Oh and I looked cute doing it!
I'm ready for week two to start on Sunday!!! Did I just say that? :)

Another bit of fitness news: we got a gym membership today at an awesome gym in town. I'm so excited to try some new fitness classes and take advantage of the outdoor pool this summer. They offer childcare for two hours a day while you work out which is perfect for me to be able to go to the gym in the afternoons and I can enroll Abigail in swim lessons without any additional cost! Yay!

I went and saw a movie with my friend tonight and when I got home, Ryan had a jogging stroller waiting on me! I was SO happy! Goodbye cheap umbrella stroller. It was nice knowing you!

Oh and I've decided on my first 5K. I'm going to do the Critter Run in Dothan, Alabama on July 23. It's near my parent's and my mom is going to do it with me. I filled out the registration form today. I have to send it in with my money next week. Just another incentive to finish this program! I can do it!

~Jessica

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Top Five Things I Am Thankful For in 2011

OK. I know I said that I wasn't going to write a new post (except for the Eating Healthy on a Budget series) until after the first of the year but I got to thinking about my life over this last year and I have so much to be thankful for. Over on Facebook, in November, several of my friends did a post every day about things they were thankful for. I did not participate but I feel compelled to list the top five things I'm thankful for.

Here they are:

1. My redemption in Christ.


2. My family. I have a wonderful, hard working, loving husband who takes care of me and encourages me. I have a beautiful daughter who brings so much joy and laughter to our home. I have the best parents and brother a girl could ask for. God truly blessed me with an awesome extended family and I am beyond thankful that we are all close and look forward to being together.


3. My health. I have worked extremely hard over this past year to become healthier and lose weight. Not only do I feel better, I look better too. I've lost 36 pounds since the above picture was taken at Easter and a 51 pounds total since the beginning of this year.



4. Friends. I don't make friends very easily. Maybe I have some huge personality flaw that turns people off or something. I'm not sure but making friends and maintaining friendships seems to be pretty hard for me. However, this year, the Lord has blessed me with some really great friends. I am so thankful for that. Friends came at the perfect time in my life too. We had been living in Slidell for a little over a year and when things hadn't worked out like we thought they were going to, we decided to try and get out. Our lease was up on our house and we had to move. All the doors that we though were going to be open for us, just slammed in our faces. We were stuck here and I was devastated. In just a short time after we moved into our new apartment and I was really struggling with still being here, friends basically landed in my lap. It was an answer to prayer and just what I needed.

 "A friend loves at all times. A brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17


5. Church family. It only took us a year of living in Louisiana to find a church. I am thankful for the church family that we have at FBC Slidell. We are a part of a great Sunday school class that is always there for each other and is willing to help those in need. I am thankful that I can leave my child in the preschool department and know that she is being taught about Jesus in a way that she can understand but I also recognize that it is mine and Ryan's responsibility ultimately to be sure she is taught about God and what He has done for us.

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Truly, my list could go on. There are so many things to be thankful for, like a place to call home, food on the table every day, clothes to wear (even if they are too big sometimes), a vehicle to take me places, etc. So many people in our own country and around the world don't even have some of the basic necessities. When I am tempted to complain or be ungrateful, I am reminded of what I really have and how blessed I truly am.

So, there it is friends. The top five things I am thankful for this year. What are you thankful for???

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica

Friday, December 16, 2011

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Part 2



This Friday, I bring you the second part of my four part series on eating healthy on a budget. Last week, I gave you some tips on what foods to buy and what kinds of dishes to make in order to stay within your budget. I even left you with a simple and cost efficient recipe for chili. If you've been struggling with this issue, I hope that last weeks post has helped you. Remember, it's best to take things slow and build up gradually or you may  burn out and give up. Make one healthier change this week...buy whole-wheat bread instead of white, buy baby carrots instead of potato chips, or take a healthy lunch to work instead of picking up fast food. You have to start somewhere.

This week, my friend Misti is guest posting. Below you'll find her tips for eating healthy on a budget and one of her favorite healthy, cheap recipes. You can follow her journey through motherhood and her heart for adoption on her blog...Butterflies & Ladybugs.

But first, a little about Misti...


Hi! I'm Misti - wife to Jacob for (almost) 7 years and mommy to Anna

Beth (3), Lynnsie (2) and Creek (2 1/2 months).  My life is crazy busy, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I've had to concentrate to watch my weight for the past several years, it fluctuates a lot so
I have to work to keep it under control.  After I gave birth to AB, I
got within 3 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight before getting pregnant
with Lynns.  I really got serious about losing weight after Lynns was
born.  I spent the summer of 2010 running, doing the Couch to 5K
program, and dropped down 7 more pounds from my pre-AB-pregnancy
weight, just 3 pounds shy of my goal weight.  Then I got pregnant with
Creek and I've now started the journey over again.  For now, I don't
get to fit exercise in just a whole bunch, so I am really having to
watch what I eat.  My plan is to pick out a running program and
complete it - whether I make it to the actual race or not - and throw
in some fun kickboxing classes and swimming at my gym. Right now, I am
11 pounds from my pre-AB-pregnancy weight...so only 20 pounds to go to
reach my goal!



Misti's Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget


1.  COUPONS!! I wish I could say that I spent hours upon hours each
week clipping coupons from the paper and scouring the Internet for
them, but I don't.  We mostly buy store brand and not name brand
items, but since our daughter has a peanut allergy, there are some
things that we have to buy name brand.  Here's what I do...I make my
grocery list first.  Then I look through a couple of websites,
couponmom.com and grocerycouponcart.com, to see what coupons they have
that I need.  I don't necessarily buy something for future use, just
because there's a coupon for it...my budget doesn't allow it most
months!  I do love Winn Dixie's "Buy One Get One Free" deals.  If they
have chicken breasts or other good meats on that week's deal, then I
definitely scoop it up.


2.  I replace Olive Oil when it calls for butter, a little more
healthy and it's a great taste (my kids love for me to saute frozen
green beans in olive oil, seasoned with a dash of salt and pepper).


3.  You can buy huge bags of frozen veggies at Sam's - here's why
that's great:  pretty good price, frozen veggies are better than
canned and it's cheaper and easier than buying fresh veggies every
day.  Actually, we've found that most things are cheaper to buy in
bulk at Sam's - 95% of the time milk is almost a dollar cheaper than
anywhere else.  My family goes through 4 gallons a WEEK - so we saved
the cost of our membership in just 2 months.


4.  For super easy meal-planning, you have to check out e-mealz.com -
Dave Ramsey is all about it!  It is a weekly menu and grocery list on
the cheap.  You can choose your family size and where you do your
shopping. You can choose vegetarian meals, too.  It tells you the best
brand for the price and your menu is planned out for the WHOLE WEEK!
No planning, no recipe searching, no thinking required...which is
great for me since, with 3 kiddos 3 and under, I don't have time to
think through a menu!  The subscription is $5 a month, but it gives
you recipes that are easy, quick, and tells you how to save.  You
could always substitute an healthy ingredient for an unhealthy
ingredient, but most of the meals are pretty balanced.





Misti's Nacho Chicken Casserole
(Weight Watcher's Recipe)


1 can chicken
2 cups Minute Rice
1 Can Cream of Chicken
1 Can Cream of Celery
1 Can Mild Rotel
1 Can Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup (or Cheddar Cheese Soup if they are out
or you want a little less "spice")
1 small can of mushrooms
13 oz bag of frozen cut broccoli

Preheat the oven to 375.  Mix all of the ingredients together in a
large bowl.  Pour the mixture into a 9x13 baking dish.
Cook for 35 - 40 minutes.





Thank you Misti for sharing with us today. Don't forget to head on over to Misti's blog.

As always, feel free to leave your own comments, tips, and recipes below.

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,

Jessica